It was June 5, 2010. My son Christian had just graduated from East Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. The ceremony, held outdoors at the athletic field was hot, crowded and awesome. It seemed like more than a thousand graduates. Caps and gowns covered nearly the entire field.
Soon after the festivities, I told my son Alex (one year younger than the older graduate), “Just think, this will be you next year. And you will be wearing the white robe and sitting in the front where the honor students sit.” Alex said, “Well dad I don’t know about that.” I assured him that there would be no doubt.
Alex is my fourth of 5th biological children. And it seemed as each one began to grow up, I became a better father and a better teacher. I don’t know if I helped my two elder daughters at school much at all, other than to offer encouragement and help with a homework assignment or three. Not that I wasn’t interested. I went to parent teacher conferences, showed up at whatever activity they were doing, and followed up on all of their progress. They were motivated young women in regards to their primary education.
Charelle, for instance, was always a “Five-Tool” type of player. (To borrow a sports analogy) She was excellent in math, science, english, reading, art; you name it. I recall checking on her progress with her teachers in high school. One teacher in particular looked at me and said, “You’re Charelle’s father right? Don’t bother wasting your time. Nothing I can tell you about this girl. She’s got it!” In addition, she was tremendously popular too; something I never was in any level of schooling.
Chrystal, talented in her own right, I recall being especially great at art. My biggest challenge with her was fighting over what items she created that I could keep for myself after the art exhibits. I wanted them all. She was also popular and was able to hang with literally any crowd and thrive. Something I also could not do at her age.
Back to Christian, he was always a decent student. But he seemed to thrive more on the creative. He could get an A in any given class if he wanted to; if he was interested enough. What was really impressive about the time of his graduation is that his journey was featured in a local newspaper detailing what it took for him to graduate overcoming many obstacles. Oh and did I mention, he too was very popular among peers.
By the time I had any clue of what I was doing to help with my kid’s education; since Charelle and Chrystal were already accomplished, my focus was on Alex and Christian during their latter school years. While I wasn’t sharpest knife in the drawer and half of the work they did was way past my expertise, I focused on what I was good at. Simplifying the process and helping them to see the big picture of life lessons and personal accountability. These are what I would offer them:
By the end of the first week of school, you should know exactly what it takes to get an A out of each class you take. If you don’t know by the end of the first week, ask.
I honestly could give a damn about whether you make an A or a D. The issue is to never ever cheat yourself. Never be lazy or content. If you got an A only because of your ability but did not maximize your efforts in the class, it doesn’t do anything for you in the long run. But if you got a D and worked your ass off, you can be proud of it. Only YOU know the difference. And that’s the person who counts. Just be excellent and let the results speak for themselves. This is what being a leader and not a follower is all about. Be a leader!
Some teachers are great, and some suck. Those that suck still have the pen that you will be graded with. That grade will follow you. So you must learn to make the best of those classes as well, if for no other reason than to get your grade and get the hell out. Teachers are like bosses and co-workers. Even with the ones that suck, you still have to learn to work with them to be successful in life.